Remember when you first went off to college? The hopes and fears; the unknown experiences awaiting you; the chance to test yourself while also wanting some familiar anchors and roots. For young Jews, college is a time to experiment and experience their Jewish identity in new ways. Campus is where lifelong relationships—often with a future spouse—are formed. For many, campus is where knowledge and attitudes about Jewish peoplehood and Israel are acquired, shaped and challenged.
Given how profoundly campus helps shape the values and priorities of the Jewish community's next generation, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago for decades has recognized that the entire Jewish community has a deep stake in Jewish campus life.
Through the Department of Campus Affairs/The Hillels of Illinois and other departments, the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago supports and operates a broad range of programs, events, opportunities, and facilities for undergraduate and graduate students at 16 Illinois campuses. At school-thanks to a network of campus Hillels—a highly diverse population of students from the entire spectrum of observance and affiliation, take ownership of their own Jewish journeys. Hillel provides a framework for their participation in a gamut of activities, from Birthright Israel experiences to campus and summer internships; from Shabbat and holiday celebrations to alternative Spring break volunteering; from creative outlets like Jewish theater, music groups and publications, to effective advocacy on behalf of Israel and other important issues.
After graduation, these same, involved students become contributing members of our Jewish community, actualizing their identities over time as lay people and professionals across the spectrum of Jewish life. By serving many thousands of students—most of who will settle in Illinois after graduating—JUF/JF helps lay the foundation for our collective tomorrow.
Richard G. Edelheit is Chair of the Governing Commission of the The Hillels of Illinois (THOI). THOI is a department of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and a branch of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and receives generous support from JUF, Jewish Federations around the state, and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. It also receives significant support from alumni and parents at the campuses on which it operates, as well as from individual benefactors and foundations.